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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 20, Number 3, November/December 2007

A celebration of non-violence

By Pummy Kaur

On October 2, 2007, the BC and Surrey chapter of the Peace And Global Educators (PAGE) marked the 138th anniversary of the birth of Mahatama Gandhi with a week of celebrations focussing on recognizing, rewarding, and honouring children who promote non-violence. The PAGE executive believe it is better to reward and recognize children for doing the right things than to punish children for and focus on them doing the wrong things. To that end we created this Celebration of Non-Violence.

Sam Fillipoff, a retired BC teacher, founding father of Acts of Transformation from War Toys To Art and Susan Suzic, vice-president of PAGE, spent the day at Semiahmoo Mall in South Surrey, with displays of the art created by elementary students, following discussions of peace and related issues. Also on display were information tables from various peace organizations, including Amnesty International, UNICEF, Brahma Kumaris, PAGE, and Conscience Canada (a group promoting the withholding of taxes spent on the military, to be held in trust for peaceful purposes, calling it The Peace Tax!).

The White Rock library organized its day around all the resources related to Gandhi and peace, with displays of books, videos, and art. Mayor Judy Forster, of White Rock, proclaimed October 2 to be Gandhi Day, with an official proclamation read during the previous night’s council meeting, and then read again at the evening events on October 2. The evening events were held at First United Church to recognize and honour a secondary school student who embodies a life lived according to some Gandhian principles—seva (service), compassion, and non-violence.

The evening began with a reception for the nominees from the three Semiahmoo Peninsula secondary schools. The nominees were Cameron Milligan, Jehoo Lee, and Karen Hefford, nominated by staff and parents. Following the reception Victor Chan, co-founder of The Dalai Lama Center for Peace And Education with His Holiness The Dalai Lama, gave the keynote address, emphasizing the role of

personal and individual non-violent lives in attaining global peace. Greg Van Vugt, president of the Surrey chapter of PAGE, and Chan jointly gave all the nominees plaques and copies of the book What Would Gandhi Do?, after sharing some of the highlights in the nomination letters for each marvelous youth.

Cameron Milligan received the highest honour of day with The Gandhi Peace Award. He became a vegetarian at 11, and recently a vegan, out of compassion and environmental concerns. Milligan turned off the TV five years ago because it is bad for society (and "just plain stupid"); rarely shops, and when he does it is ethical shopping. He does not preach, and he simply lives Gandhi’s message of being the change we wish to see in the world.

The minister and members of First United Church in White Rock supported the event by organizing and showing the film Gandhi with Ben Kingsley after the awards ceremony. They supplied the refreshments and Paul Choisil serenaded everyone during the reception. Many others supported the celebration including the Surrey Teachers’ Association, the media, Holi Smoke Coffee, Living Values Education Program Canadian co-ordinator Gudrun Howard, school staffs and nominators, and Van Vugt’s studentswho created beautiful certificates for the nominees.

An entire community came together to celebrate a great man’s birthday, and to celebrate the lives of some great young people. We may not all have been the village that raised these adolescents, but it certainly was a privilege to be in the village that showed up to honour them, and to express thanks to their parents for having raised the kind of people we would all wish our students to be.

(The plan is to expand the event each year until youth are nominated from every province and territory, and classrooms across Canada engage in the War Toys to Art program. If

your school district would like to participate, please contact whatwould_gandhido@yahoo.ca.)

Pummy Kaur is past president, BC Peace and Global Educators, Surrey.

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